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Minto: Australia’s fourth terrorist attack

Posted By on September 15, 2016 @ 11:00

Australia has now experienced its fourth terrorist attack in two years. As the world prepared to pause and recall the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, Australians woke to the news that a 22-year-old with a history of petty criminality but no known links to terrorism had attacked another man [1] with a large knife and was later charged with committing a terrorist act and attempted murder.

What to make of this? At one level, the act itself is simple and relatively unsuccessful. The perpetrator clumsily attacked someone apparently known to him, who managed to get away.  Sanctuary was provided to the victim at a nearby business, and members of the public subdued the attacker. Police responded quickly. If not for the apparent terrorist motivation [2], it’s unlikely this would’ve made the news.

At another level, however, this indicates the impact of Islamist extremist ideology in Australia, and is a sober reminder of the reason our terror alert level is at ‘Probable: a terrorist attack is likely’. Yet another troubled young man has used violence apparently inspired by Islamist extremism, although the details of his particular case are yet to come out.

Based on Australia’s experience with terror and extremism to date, however, we can anticipate the case will gradually uncover indicators of the perpetrator’s association with other extremists online and in person.  Other events in Australia suggest that religion and faith are unlikely to feature significantly in the individual’s past, instead coming as part of the violent extremist package, while a history of violence and association with other criminals is likely. NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burns has already confirmed a prior criminal record for property offences.

We can also expect Islamist groups to take credit and celebrate the attack. But what’s there to celebrate? The attack failed. That the stabbing could occur speaks more to the simplicity of the attack than its effectiveness. It’s not possible to prevent every violent criminal act, terrorist-motivated or otherwise. In fact, that the attack involved a knife rather than a more destructive weapon speaks well of the way Australia is managing prohibited items, including the effectiveness of our gun laws, although a more lethal attack remains possible.

The recent investigation uncovering an illegal firearms importation ring [3] bringing semi-automatic and automatic firearms into the country from the US indicates that curbing Australia’s organised crime gangs is pivotal to the fight against terrorism, as well as  other violent crime.

Daesh and other Islamist groups and their supporters continue to seek attacks in Australia—our country consistently rates number three in Daesh’s hit list. But to date they’ve failed to achieve the desired aim, as Australia’s Joint Counter Terrorism Teams—federal and state police and ASIO—have disrupted nine Islamist-inspired attacks.

The story of Daesh’s demise over the past 12 months in the Middle East has seen it attempt to strike out elsewhere, as tragic events in Nice, Istanbul, Jakarta and other places have shown. With the so-called ‘caliphate’ now all but gone, and its dwindling numbers on the backfoot in Iraq and Syria, the group has been forced to take its fight elsewhere. It’s called generically for anyone to do anything, anywhere, hoping someone will take up the cause.  So we can continue to expect that, on occasion, both random attacks and more coordinated assaults will continue to occur.

Two years after Australia’s terror alert level was raised to ‘Probable’, Islamist extremists remain unable to execute or inspire a significant attack. This indicates two important things. First, the message doesn’t resonate as strongly with the Australian community as the extremists would suggest. Second, that Australia’s counter-terrorism agencies and our broader community are doing a good job, though we shouldn’t expect them to always be able to prevent attacks.

Australia experienced its fourth terrorist attack, but there was no loss of life, and minimal impact to the community. What was amply on display, however, was a supportive community response. Members of the public protected the victim, and courageously confronted and subdued the attacker. Police responded quickly and took the perpetrator into custody. This is a story of resilience against violent crime.

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URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/minto-australias-fourth-terrorist-attack/

URLs in this post:

[1] attacked another man: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-10/man-charged-committing-terrorist-attack-after-sydney-stabbing/7833696

[2] apparent terrorist motivation: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-11/alleged-sydney-terror-attacker-inspired-by-is-minto-stabbing/7833870

[3] uncovering an illegal firearms importation ring: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-02/arrests-made-as-police-bust-us-linked-weapons-syndicate/7809346

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